The Virtual Turn: Narrative, Identity, And German Media Art Practice In The Digital Age
A commonplace in digital-literary studies holds that narrative, connected to the binary logic of symbolic representation, exists in tension with digital culture. Digital media modes privilege interactivity, simulation, and the epistemological paradigm of "the virtual," understood as the interconnectedness of culture, symbolic systems, material reality, and experience. The dissertation argues that, despite its connection to structuralist binaries, narrative form remains important to identity and cultural memory in complex ways. This complex connection is imperative to investigate in a global, digital age, where cultural memory seems increasingly fragile. The theoretical framework in Chapter One argues that digital texts reject the Oedipal desire for mastery, certainty, or closure, invoking instead a simple desire for connection. The appearance of narrative desire in such texts, because of narrative's association with pastness, implies a desire for connection with an historical other as such-with some "archive" of shared memory. This theoretical framework informs close analyses of the tensions between narrative representation and the virtual modes of new media in three digital and literary texts. These tensions mark the texts' conflicted engagements with history; here, specific conflicts between individual and public memory in Germany from 1945-1998. The chapters analyze a Jewish narrator's attempt to create a public, non-representational art of Holocaust memory in Wolfgang Hildesheimer's Tynset (1965); the interplay of Ostalgie and destabilized mediamemory of DEFA Indianerfilme in the western-dominated cultural imaginary of unified Germany in artist pair Nomad's DVD-ROM The Last Cowboy (1998); and the feminist inversion of Derrida's Archive Fever, based in the artist's intimate experiences as immigrant and mother, in Agnes Hegedüs' virtual database Die Sprache der Dinge (1998). These artworks all construe the limit of narrative possibility as an archive of cultural memory, but also as an agential human other. Within the interactive logic of the virtual, the narrative limit these figures embody becomes a zone of ethical engagement, negotiation, or struggle. Offering a nuanced combination of literary and digital analytical methods and modeling a strong orientation to humanistic concerns of cultural memory, history, identity, and ethics, the dissertation contributes to the growing field of digital humanities scholarship.
digital humanities; media art; German literature
Murray, Timothy Conway
Adelson, Leslie Allen; Melas, Natalie Anne-Marie
Ph.D. of Comparative Literature
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis